India are not only fumbling on the field of play. Off it too. At media conferences, to be precise. Not long after skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni chose the wrong time to declare that he would have to give up one form of the game to lead the country to defend their World Cup crown and Zaheer Khan commenting on Ricky Ponting's batting rhythm, Gautam Gambhir came out and supported the laying out of rank turners when India tackle opposition teams at home. A comment like this is a slap in the face of India's quest to do better away from home -- a dream that was realised to a degree when Sourav Ganguly formed that formidable captain-coach alliance with New Zealander John Wright in 2000 to facilitate some impressive overseas wins.
Think beore you speak: Gautam Gambhir supported the laying out of rank turners when India tackle opposition teams at home
The Bulawayo Test against Zimbabwe in June 2001 was India's first Test match win outside the sub-continent in 15 years. From 2001, India have triumphed in 23 overseas Tests and before 2000, India won only 13 Tests abroad since 1932. If this isn't an improvement from the 'only tigers at home' days, nothing is.
If the BCCI were to implement what Gambhir is talking about -- rank turners -- India will, in all probability and logic go back to its old ways. Bad enough, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Test team has taken Indian cricket backwards with their seven-in-a-row overseas defeats.
BCCI president N Srinivasan's comment on home battles is reassuring: "Our aim is to give fair wickets and not one-sided ones. The intention, whenever our team goes out, is definitely to win. There is no such intention and neither will the BCCI be satisfied with a win at home. Not at all. It is our earnest endeavour to win whether at home or outside."
Thank you, Sir, because doctored pitches is a slur on fairplay. It is also an insult to players like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman, who have shed sweat and blood to make India a force abroad. Gambhir too has reason to take pride in his performance in New Zealand in 2009 when he helped India win a Test series for the first time there since 1968.
Sure, quotes coming out of press conferences are not always put in true context, but international cricketers must be wary of their views making headlines. And in this case, the media was justified in highlighting his opinion on pitches.
One of the team's public affairs problems is that the right people are not always sent to address the media. At times, those sent are not even performers. Yesterday provided a classic case. Ishant Sharma, who has been one the disappointments of the tour, was sent to face the media.
Such actions prompt me to believe that there is a degree of reluctance from players to address the media. As seniors, this must not be considered a chore. And instead of wicketless Ishant, perhaps the bowling coach could have been a better option considering Australia took 604 runs off his troops.
On the last Test tour of England, a team official was not impressed with my view that there was no thinking behind who is sent for press conferences. When I asked why Laxman had not addressed the media during the Test series, I was told, "we would love to send him, but he has to get his back treated after each day."
Laxman doesn't bat on every day of the tour. Nor is he on as a fielder on each day. Sachin Tendulkar too isn't seen often at press conferences and although a playing member is not obliged to address the media, who wouldn't love to hear what he thinks has gone wrong for India in the last few months? If there is a fear of being misquoted, then the BCCI must have the communications machinery to set things right in that situation.
Tendulkar has been receiving standing ovations each time he walks out to bat. Wouldn't the Australian public want to hear from a man, who has given them immeasurable pleasure over his five Test tours to Australia? Probably, Gambhir expunged all the logic he had in his system the other day when he made his rank turners comment.